April 4 – Holding Space

By Kali’ P. Rourke

My husband and I just visited our older daughter’s law school for a “Parents and Friends Day.”

It was a revelation in many ways. Our daughter had shared the school with us in a small tour when we visited earlier in the year, but this was the official version. She and a friend are regularly leading tours for prospective students in their spare time, and so they were assigned to our group. We got to see them do their actual spiel. It was wonderful, and they were so good at pointing out everything from architectural features to history, while sharing their positive experiences as first year law students at Vanderbilt.

We know, of course, that it is actually the hardest thing our daughter has ever done. We know the challenges, difficulties, disappointments and her feelings because she shares many of them with us. We listen, commiserate, encourage and try very hard not to direct her or solve her problems. They are truly hers to deal with as she sees fit along the way.

I recently participated in a spiritual leadership pilgrimage retreat and along with meditation and observation techniques, we learned about “holding space” for another person.

Feel free to try it yourself. Try consciously letting another person do all of the talking for just five minutes. You say nothing, but listen intently and hold that time for them to talk about whatever is on their mind…or even to stay silent.

I won’t kid you; it is incredibly hard to do. Your mind will try to race to the next thing you want to say, or a story that relates to what they are saying. There may be many distractions that will try to divert you from your intent. If you can tame those impulses and stay on course, the rewards are surprising.

As human beings, we crave one thing almost as much as we crave sustenance, shelter and safety. We crave to be understood. When we find understanding, we are so grateful and feel such a strong connection to those we feel offer it to us.

You can offer this gift to your spouse, your children, your friends and family…anyone! Just hold space for them in a conversation. You can tell them you are doing this, or just do it. You can ask for the same gift from another person after they have experienced it. You will be amazed at what you have been missing.

Thanks for holding space for me while I shared this with you.

Kali’ is a proud Mom, Wife, Philanthropist, Semi-Pro Board Member, Genealogist, Geek and Diva. She believes in being a force for positive change in Austin, Texas…in ways both big and small.

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8 responses to “April 4 – Holding Space

  1. This is wonderful, Kali! Your daughter is so fortunate to have you in her life. “Holding space” is one of the many techniques things we psychotherapists use to support our clients. In my book, I describe how it was done for me, and how I learned to do it. I did find it very difficult at first, but now it has become a way of life, and why people are drawn to tell me so much about themselves. We can all do this for each other, if only more people understood the importance of feeling heard. You have helped to share this way of supporting the growth of others.
    It’s not the only thing therapists do, but it is the very foundation of the therapeutic (read “helpful,” or “healing”) relationship. Thanks for explaining it so well.

  2. face what you know

    Kali’,

    This is a true challenge! We are all so eager to “join the conversation” that we sometimes speak before the other is finished. Thanks for this reminder and such a lovely turn of phrase. I’ve tacked “holding space” to my frig door as a reminder.

  3. I needed to read this post today. My daughter is going through a crisis, and I tend to be too eager to offer recommendations for a resolution. Next time I see her (probably today) I will try “holding space” for her. Thank you.

  4. Wonderful, Marahm!
    Let me know how it turns out. I think it is probably the hardest thing I have ever done as a parent, wife and friend so I admire your willingness to give it a try!

  5. I did it! She cried, and told me some details, and we were able to discuss the issue somewhat. More work is in order.

  6. Thank you for sharing this, Kali. Holding space can be difficult at first but so rewarding once it is learned. This is something we do in life coaching and I find after holding space for a while, if I wait just that few seconds more before talking, my client will often say something powerful and crucial to their development and moving forward. It’s a beautiful thing.

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